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Military Prepares Help in Ivan's Aftermath

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2004 – Hurricane Ivan carved a swath of destruction through the Gulf Coast region and initial press reports indicate that at least eight people are dead.

President Bush has declared the affected areas in Ivan's path as federal disaster areas, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has added its expertise to the recovery mission.

Ivan hit on the Alabama Gulf Coast late last night. The hurricane had sustained winds of more than 130 miles per hour and had a storm surge of about 17 feet.

Most residents of the low-lying area including thousands of servicemembers and their families at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. had evacuated from the area.

Ivan flooded low-lying areas, knocked down trees and power lines from Florida to Louisiana. Most areas are without power and the hurricane spawned tornadoes that were responsible for at least two deaths.

Weather Service officials downgraded Ivan to a tropical storm, but say it is still dangerous as it travels inland.

At Eglin Air Force Base, heavy rains and high winds were continuing during the day. The base currently has no commercial power and the Defense Switched Network is down. There is limited commercial communications to the base. There are no reports of injuries among the skeleton crew that remained at the base.

At Pensacola, officials were still assessing damage.

As the storm heads north, National Guardsmen in the region are responding. Officials at the National Guard Bureau said that more than 7,200 personnel 6,681 Army Guardsmen and 519 Air Guardsmen stand ready to assist. They are performing disaster response missions as mandated by the governors of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Officials said the guardsmen can work in neighboring states as needed.

The Guard has also set up liaison offices in St. Augustine, Fla., and Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

The Joint Staff, U. S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau are working with states and FEMA to formulate a plan of action to establish "commodity distribution centers" in Ivan's immediate aftermath, officials said.

At FEMA's request, DoD also has provided 95 people to coordinate the department's efforts with federal, state and local officials; centers at 11 military bases to serve as logistics hubs and staging areas for FEMA; long- range satellite communication capability; and medical augmentation.

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